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D.C. Protester: Arrest Empowering

Published April 16, 2011 11:48 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

One of the two Utahns who was arrested last week for interrupting the U.S. House of Representatives with a protest song to the tune of the Star Spangled Banner says she hopes their act of defiance encourages others to speak out.

"I just feel empowered right now. I'm just so excited and happy," Deb Henry said Friday night after she and other protesters got out of jail in Washington D.C. "I hope it has inspired other people to take more action than cards and letters that are ignored by their congressman and senator."

Capitol Police say a total of 12 people were taken into custody.

The activists were in Washington for the Power Shift 2011 conference, aimed at rallying young leaders to the clean energy cause. Henry and fellow Utahn Jesse Liptay – who are members of the group Peaceful Uprising, created by Tim DeChristopher — planned the demonstration with fellow activists from other states.

"We wanted to kick off the weekend with a bang or with a song you might say and show them we're serious about doing thing and [say] how serious are you?" she said.

The protesters actually had to wait in line to get into the crowded House gallery. The first one went inside and began to sing and the Capitol Police quickly grabbed the activist and slapped on the cuffs.

Then, after things calmed down, another went in and did the same thing, then another until all nine were cuffed and marched through the Capitol – singing the whole way — to a holding cell in the basement.

"It was really interesting to see Congress mad at us because often it's been the other way around – we've been mad at Congress and they were the ones who could care less, so it was a little paradigm shift," Henry said.

Henry said the Capitol police were perhaps a little rough, but noting excessive. They were in custody for seven hours or more. They were charged with unlawful conduct and Henry said she will have to be back in D.C. on May 5 to appear in court.

Mostly, she said, the response she has heard has been positive, but there are a handful in Utah who have objected to the tactics. She says those people are underestimating what they can do to make a change.

"I can't change that for them. I can only show them a different way is possible," she said.

— Robert GehrkeTwitter: @RobertGehrke